May 6, 2011

After three months of focused advocacy, the Connecticut business aviation community has succeeded in stopping two devastating tax increases. The state legislature last week passed a budget that did not contain two tax proposals opposed by the industry: a new personal property tax on all aircraft and the elimination of the sales tax exemption for maintenance and repair of light aircraft.

“Thanks to successful advocacy efforts by NBAA Members, the Connecticut Legislative Aviation Caucus, the Connecticut Business Aviation Group (CBAG), the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and others, the state will continue its role as an important destination for business aviation,” said NBAA’s northeast regional representative, Dean Saucier.

In addition to NBAA, CBAG and AOPA, the Northeast chapter of the American Bonanza Society and the Connecticut chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association joined the grassroots campaign against the tax proposals. The groups rallied their members to contact their legislators and the governor’s office and explain the impact the tax increases would have on their business.

A survey sponsored by NBAA found that 93 percent of operators with aircraft based in Connecticut would have moved their aircraft to neighboring states if the personal property tax proposal had passed, affecting over 300 jobs at companies that responded to the survey alone.

“In a series of meetings at the capitol with aviation business owners and operators, the state officials and legislators got to know the true value of business aviation to Connecticut,” said Saucier. “People in the industry told legislators that airplanes leaving the state would lead to a loss of jobs, economic growth and tax revenue.”

Saucier reported that one legislator was personally moved by the story of a ramp crewman at an FBO on Danbury Municipal Airport (DXR). The crewman, whose job was to maintain the fuel farm and refuel aircraft, told his representative simply: “If this tax passes, it’s my job and my family that are going to suffer.”

In another meeting, Scott Ashton of Connecticut aircraft management and charter company Gama Aviation told officials with the Office of Policy and Management that many of his clients would quickly relocate if the tax proposals passed.

“Most of our clients base their aircraft remotely in Connecticut,” said Ashton. “The pilots fly the aircraft to Teterboro or White Plains where they pick up the passengers, so the owners only base their aircraft in Connecticut because our state has been welcoming to aviation. Several of our clients called to say that if these taxes passed, they’d relocate their aircraft to one of those other airports.”

Correcting such misconceptions about business aviation in Connecticut was a key part of the advocacy work, according to Ashton. “NBAA was instrumental in setting up those meetings and supporting us in delivering that message,” he said.

“Once these people met their legislators and government officials,” said Saucier, “a better understanding evolved between all parties and the representatives saw how much business aviation fuels the Connecticut economy.”

Learn more about the tax proposals that were defeated, and the grassroots activities of the Connecticut business aviation community, at NBAA’s State Aviation Tax report for Connecticut.